The Top Social Media News Updates for March 2019

Were you on top of all the latest social media platform updates and news stories in March?

As always, social media is constantly changing, with new ad tools coming in, new features being rolled out and new options to connect with your audience. If you’re not paying attention (i.e. subscribed to Social Media Today’s newsletter), you can quickly get left behind. 

In March, there were fewer social media platform controversies, giving the platforms the chance to focus on new refinements and updates to their systems. This meant that there was a heap of smaller, but relevant, changes and updates announced which could have a significant impact on your marketing strategy

Here’s a rundown of the big announcements from each platform over the past month. 

Twitter

Twitter introduces new camera features

Last month Twitter announced a significant update to its camera feature in an effort to make sharing pictures, videos and live footage even easier. The update adds a Stories-like presentation style to your Twitter visuals – and here is what you can do with it:

  • Now, to access the camera, you simply need to swipe left – you no longer have to look for it under a tweet composer button
  • After you take a picture/photo, you can add a short description, hashtag or location tag
  • Twitter will recommend hashtags based on big nearby events and other signals

The way the media captured via the new camera is presented on your timeline has also changed – media captured with Twitter camera will have overlayed text at the bottom of the image/video.

This redesign is clearly aimed at encouraging people to report on things that are happening in real time through pictures and videos.

Twitter confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s not giving tweets created with the camera an algorithmic boost, however a Twitter spokesperson did suggest that its combined human and technology curation team may seek to spotlight Twitter Camera tweets in the ‘What’s Happening’ section about live events in the Explore tab.

Twitter is testing ‘Subscribe to a conversation’ feature

It seems like Twitter does actually listen to its users sometimes (unless they are asking for an edit button)

Twitter is an amazing platform for lively discussion, and a lot of users would like to know how those discussions are progressing, even when they’re not participating. The good news is that, quite soon, you may be able to do exactly that.

Twitter has confirmed that it’s currently working on a feature which would enable users to follow certain Twitter threads by hitting a ‘Subscribe to conversation’ button.

It reminds me a bit of a similar feature on Facebook, where you can choose to receive notifications from comment threads on specific posts.

(False) panic over likes removal

In March, Twitter finally started admitting people to its ‘twttr’ beta testing app, which, at present, is focused on getting user feedback on its new, ‘conversational’ UI ideas. Apparently, one of the changes that Twitter’s trying out is hiding vanity metrics like likes and retweets. In order to see them, you would need to tap on the specific tweet.

The idea behind this is to make Twitter more egalitarian, and level the field. However, many Twitter users were less than enthused about this change.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has previously discussed his vision for a Twitter without the presence of such metrics, but the negative reaction in response to this test could well prevent the option from ever becoming a reality. To many users, the idea of putting trolls and bad-faith debaters on a more equal footing with their targets sounds more like a nightmare than a positive shift.

Facebook

Facebook apocalypse

On March the 13th 2019, millions of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp users were either unable to open their apps, or experienced a range of problems in loading pages, publishing new posts and/or interacting with others.

Many took to Twitter to figure out what was happening – since even Facebook’s own bug report platform, in which it discloses what services are down, had gone offline.

According to Facebook’s official statement, the shutdown was caused by server configuration changes.

“Yesterday, we made a server configuration change that triggered a cascading series of issues, and as a result, many people had difficulty accessing our apps and services. We have resolved the issues, and our systems have been recovering over the last few hours. We are very sorry for the inconvenience and we appreciate everyone’s patience.”

Some conspiracy theorists speculated that it may have been caused by Facebook’s push to integrate all of its messaging platforms, or that it may even have been an attempt to cover up some malevolent activities, since prior to the shutdown there was a lot of focus on the current investigation into Facebook’s data deals.

There’s little evidence to support these theories, but still, as with most things Facebook, there may have been an alternate explanation.

Facebook plans to replace Ad Relevance Score with new metrics

Facebook also announced that it’ll be saying goodbye to its Ad Relevance Score process on the 30th of April. Facebook’s relevance score offered advertisers a level of insight into how well their ad may perform, and was used as one part of the process to define ad reach. 

Ad Relevance Score will be replaced by several metrics that, according to Facebook, will be “more actionable”.

The new metrics coming into effect are:

  • Quality ranking – Measures an ad’s perceived quality compared to ads competing for the same target audience
  • Engagement rate – Shows an ad’s expected engagement rate compared to ads competing for the same audience
  • Conversion rate ranking – Shows an ad’s expected conversion rates when compared to ads with the same optimization goals and audience.

In addition, Facebook’s also changing up a bunch of other metrics related to ad performance, with the following categories to be updated:

  • The Offers saved and Costs Per Offers Saved metrics will be united under the Post Saves metric. The new Post Saves metric will measure the number of times your ad was saved, including all Offer Ad saves, and will count the post saves that occurred on or after February 4, 2019.
  • Messaging replies and Cost Per Messaging replies are being replaced by ‘New Messaging Connections’ and ‘Messaging Conversations Started’. This will put the focus on new connections that can be interpreted as leads by your marketing team.
  • Mobile app purchase ROAS and web purchase ROAS will now be combined into a general ‘Purchase ROAS’ metric.

Restricted targeting for certain ads to fight discrimination

There were a lot of updates for Facebook Ads manager last month.

In addition to replacing old metrics, Facebook has also announced changes to its targeting options for some companies – from now on, housing, employment, and credit ads can no longer be targeted by age, race, or gender.

In a blog post, Facebook explained that these changes are the result of their agreements with various civil rights organizations.

“Our policies already prohibit advertisers from using our tools to discriminate. We’ve removed thousands of categories from targeting related to protected classes such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. But we can do better. We believe that the changes we’re announcing today as part of our settlements with the NFHA, ACLU, CWA and other groups will better protect people on Facebook.”

Moreover, Facebook points out that this is not the last step in the quest for fighting discrimination.

“We’re building a tool so you can search for and view all current housing ads in the US targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether the ads are shown to you.”

Speaking of which…

You can now see all active ads a page is running in Ad Library

As part of its effort to make its on-platform advertising more transparent, Facebook also announced the expansion of its Ad Library, which will now enable all users to look up any active ads being run by any page.

Previously, you could only see ads related to politics or social issues, but Facebook has broadened to tool to add another level of accountability and oversight. 

In addition, Facebook’s also taking some additional steps to improve Page transparency on Pages themselve:

“Beyond the Ad Library, we’re making it easier to find helpful information within Pages too. Now the “Home” tab of every Page will include a “Page Transparency” section with the same Page information we’ve added to the Ad Library – the date the Page was created, previous Page merges, name changes, and primary country location for certain Pages. People previously had to click “Info and Ads” to find this information.”

Instagram

eCommerce solution in the works

Instagram’s currently testing out a new feature which would enable brands to sell products right within the app.

The feature is titled ‘Checkout on Instagram’, and is currently in closed beta with selected retailers the US.

As you can see from the screenshots, users will soon be able to tap on a new ‘Checkout on Instagram’ button on a product page, which will enable them to fulfill an order, including payment, without ever leaving the app. 

As noted, the feature is currently being tested by several major brands, including Zara, Adidas and Prada. 

Ad format for influencer marketing posts

Acknowledging the significance of influencer marketing on the platform, Instagram is also planning to introduce a new format for promoted posts by influencers called ‘Branded content ads’.

Until now, brands could hire influencers to work on ad campaigns and promote products with branded content, but the posts would only reach the followers of that influencer. Branded content ads would enable the advertisers to promote these influencer posts, the same as they would any other post.

This would give brands more opportunities to maximize the posts produced by Instagram personalities as a part of their influencer marketing strategies.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn updates Ads to improve targeting

LinkedIn has seemingly caught the same vibe as Facebook and decided to give their Ads a fresh look for the spring.

Here is the list of updates and additions that the professional social network rolled out last month:

  • Lookalike audiences – This new targeting option combines the traits of your ideal customer with data from LinkedIn to find the most suitable audience for your ads. With Lookalike Audiences, you can discover audiences similar to those who’ve already demonstrated an interest in your business — e.g. engaged on your website or gave you their contact info.
  • Expanded interest targeting – Interest targeting was introduced back in January, but last month, LinkedIn announced a new integration with Microsoft’s Bing search engine in order to target users “based on a combination of your audience’s professional interests on LinkedIn and the professional topics and content your audience engages with through Bing”.
  • Audience templates – This will be helpful for marketers who are new to LinkedIn advertising – templates will give them a selection of over 20 predefined B2B audiences to choose from, and will include audience characteristics, such as member skills, job titles, groups, and so on.

Pinterest

Pinterest doubles down on improving the shopping experience for users

Pinterest, which is moving towards an IPO, continues to update its ad tools, announcing a range of new tools including its new Product Catalogs option. 

To help retailers reach and convert more customers, Pinterest also added the following features in March:

  • Shop a brand – Beneath Product Pins, users will now be able to view a new section with more products from that specific brand
  • Personalized shopping recommendations – Users will get additional product recommendations based on their previous pin activity
  • Shopping Ads – Shopping Ads are now available to all businesses through Pinterest’s Ads Manager. Once products are on Pinterest, brands can promote items from their existing product feed with Shopping Ads.

As always, a range of new considerations and tools, some of which will have significant impacts for many businesses. It’s worth keeping up with the latest trends – hopefully this will serve as a reminder, or prompt to get you thinking on how you can use these new functions.

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